Ab Rees has been a part of the AlphaNet family for nearly 16 years. Read on to discover how pulmonary rehab has helped Ab change his lifestyle for the better.

Ab Rees has spent most of his life traveling; for a long time moving from city to city was just a part of the job. A railroad man like his father before him, he retired after 50 years in the industry and settled in Kansas City, Missouri where he now lives with his wife, Lynne. Ab’s long hours and weekends spent working on the railroad were often accompanied by breathing difficulties and respiratory illnesses he couldn’t seem to shake. His general physician at the time could not provide him with a definitive diagnosis. It was only after a wintertime company trip to Baton Rouge where he became too ill to leave his hotel room that Ab would finally get the answers he didn’t know he was looking for.

After an emergency flight home on the company plane, a coworker who also suffered from respiratory issues recommended Ab see his doctor, a pulmonary specialist who immediately suspected what the issue was. The pulmonologist ran multiple tests and in January 2002 Ab was finally diagnosed with Alpha-1. Two years later, Ab was approached by Bob Barrett, President and CEO of AlphaNet at the time, and John Walsh, co-founder of AlphaNet and the Alpha-1 Foundation and President and CEO of the Alpha-1 Foundation at the time and was asked to join AlphaNet’s Board of Directors. A year later, in 2005, Ab was also asked to join the Board of Directors of the Alpha-1 Foundation. He served on the board of the Alpha-1 Foundation for nearly 13 years and continues to serve on the board of AlphaNet to this day.

In 2018, during a trip to the Alpha-1 National Conference in San Francisco, Ab began to experience another string of health issues that eventually led him to make a major lifestyle change. Ab developed blood clots, AFib, and had a cancer scare all in a very short period of time. Thankfully, after a few trips to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, specialists ruled out cancer, but, unfortunately, Ab had contracted the flu from his many visits and was in and out of the hospital until he fully recovered a few months later. Once Ab was discharged and experienced relief from the constant health issues he had been experiencing, he felt prepared to take his health into his own hands and asked his doctor about starting pulmonary rehab.

For about a year, Ab visited his local hospital for oxygen-assisted pulmonary rehab sessions that he says greatly improved his quality of life. Before rehab, Ab was resigned to laying on the couch watching television, too weak to do much at all. Once he started rehab, however, he was able to breathe easier and had the desire to do more – even helping Lynne around the house!

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Ab was able to walk into the hospital for a rehab session whenever it fit his schedule. However, once COVID-19 became a serious national concern, the facility where Ab went for his rehab temporarily closed. After almost 4 months of waiting, Ab was contacted by the program organizers in May and invited back to rehab – this time on a set schedule. Now, Ab goes in twice a week for 90-minute sessions, along with only a handful of other individuals in accordance with the hospital’s social distancing measures. After some time back at it, Ab says he’s the strongest he’s been in the past three and a half years and he credits pulmonary rehab for the significant improvement in his health. Before starting rehab, Ab’s oximeter readings were between 89 and 90, while his blood pressure was 140/90. Now, his oximeter readings range from 93 to 95 and his blood pressure is a healthy 114/60. Ab hopes that his health continues to improve and that, perhaps, sometime soon he can take a trip to visit his youngest grandchildren in Salt Lake City, Utah which has an elevation of nearly 4500 feet (a tough spot for any Alpha)!

Ab recommends pulmonary rehab to anyone who can physically make it to a session, whether it’s in-person or virtual. “Do not be afraid of pulmonary rehab. No matter how hard it is to breathe, do rehab. No matter how weak you feel, do rehab.”      

Interested in enrolling in pulmonary rehab? Discuss it with your doctor and check out What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation and How Can it Help? to learn more about how pulmonary rehab can help improve your life.